Safety under pressure


Much has been written about compressor maintenance, operation and energy conservation. Equally important is a focus on their inherent risks. Compressor hazards include excessive pressure, flying objects, mechanical failures, fires, explosions, leakage of toxic or flammable fluids, and dangerous noise levels.

What steps can I take to ensure compressor safety?

A good starting point is the template self-inspection checklist developed by OSHA's Office of Training and Education. According to OSHA's 2003-2008 Strategic Management Plan, "Companies that participate in the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) have 54% fewer injuries and illnesses than other companies in their industries."

Can you provide practical examples of compressor safety initiatives?

California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has instituted a shop-area safety inspection checklist modeled after the OSHA template. It dedicates several pages of checkpoints to compressors and compressed air, compressed air receivers and compressed gas cylinders.

The CDC's Office of Health and Safety has compiled a manual on Engineering Services Safety. Guidelines for the safe use of compressed air sources are detailed within the General Shop/Work Area Safety section.

The University of Florida's Environmental Health and Safety office summarized general safety requirements for compressed air, and specific checkpoints for air receivers, air distribution lines, pressure regulation devices, air compressor operation and compressed air equipment maintenance.

What national standards address compressor safety?

ASME has published two safety standards specific to compressors: the Safety Standard for Air Compressor Systems (B19.1) and the Safety Standard for Compressors for Process Industries (B19.3). These standards address the construction, installation, operation and maintenance of air and gas compression equipment. Members can purchase both documents from the ASME Web site for less than $100. The standards are also generally available from NORMAS at a slightly higher price.

For more information, see:

Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy is managing director of Additive Communications. E-mail her at


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